Thunderbolt vs Firewire 800 vs USB 3.0 | FOM

NEW UPDATED INFO (4/8/2013):
Intel Announces Next-Gen Thunderbolt With 20 Gbps Speeds & 4K TV Support | Engadget

This week Apple launched two new devices that come standard with Intel’s Thunderbolt ports, the MacBook Air and the Mac Mini. We’ve already grown accustomed to seeing USB and as Mac users, Firewire 800, in our devices but now there’s a new alternative. So, what’s the difference between these three seemingly similar data transfer methods?


  • Thunderbolt – 10Gbps
  • USB 3.0 – 5Gbps
  • Firewire 800 – 786.432Mbps

Advantage Thunderbolt


  • Thunderbolt – Sold exclusively by Apple for $49 (2 meters)
  • USB 3.0 – Found on Newegg for $12 (1.5 meters)
  • Firewire 800 found on CompBargains $14 (2 meters)

Advantage USB 3.0

Hardware Availability

  • Thunderbolt – Thunderbolt on a PC right now, it’s not gonna happen
  • USB 3.0 – On most PC’s since late 2010, not Macs
  • Firewire 800 – On high-end PC’s , Macs, and many mid-grade laptops since 2010

Advantage USB 3.0

For a Mac user Firewire 800 is a less expensive alternative to Thunderbolt but it’s slower. If you want speed Thunderbolt is the way to go. The cables will eventually be made and sold as after-market products so expect a price decrease as time goes on. It really all depends on what’s most important to you.

Related Articles:
Do the New Mini and MacBook Air Mean the End for Physical Media? | FOM
Early Thunderbolt Tests Find Blazing Speeds with Bootable External Drives | AppleInsider


4 thoughts on “Thunderbolt vs Firewire 800 vs USB 3.0 | FOM

  1. USB 3 is on my Mac Pro using a LaCie PCI card. Would now like Thunderbolt available for my Mac Pro because of fast back up for customers. Notice it can’t be used on my Apple Lisa either!

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